01/02/2015 10:30AM

Sparkman: A requiem for Alydar

Benoit & Associates
Sam's Sister (left), a filly by Benchmark’s son Brother Derek, wins the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park.

Not all great sires become great sires of sires.

By almost any measure you can name, the late Alydar was a great sire. Leading sire in North America in 1990, he ranked among the top 10 on five other occasions, and even led the broodmare sire list in France in 1997 when Peintre Celebre, by Nureyev out of Alydar’s daughter Peinture Bleue, was the best horse in Europe. In 11 crops before his untimely and highly controversial death in 1990, Alydar sired 707 foals, a number that included 77 stakes winners (10.9 percent), 46 group/graded stakes winners (a truly exceptional 6.5 percent), and 21 Group 1 or Grade 1 winners.

Alydar’s best sons – Horses of the Year Alysheba and Criminal Type, classic winners Strike the Gold and Easy Goer, and champion older male Turkoman – all received good to excellent chances of success in the Kentucky stallion market. Of those five best sons, Easy Goer did best, siring Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Coaching Club American Oaks winner My Flag and Grade 1 winners Will’s Way (sire of Grade 1 winner Lion Tamer) and Furlough from four small crops before his premature death. Alysheba, Strike the Gold, and Criminal Type all ended up being exported after modest early results, and the gigantic Turkoman did not last long in Kentucky before transferring to California.
As it turned out, Alydar’s best and most influential sire son was already standing in California by the time Turkoman arrived, and, though he never managed to achieve real national recognition, Benchmark became the second son of Alydar to produce a son who sired a Grade 1 winner when Sam’s Sister, by Brother Derek, won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.

Bred in Kentucky by Myron Rosenthal’s North Central Bloodstock, Benchmark was from the final crop by Alydar and out of the graded stakes-placed Danzig mare Winters’ Love, a full sister to multiple stakes winner Baltic Chill and a half-sister to classic winner and good sire Caveat and multiple graded winner Dew Line, both by Cannonade. Pam and Marty Wygod made Benchmark the second-highest-priced weanling of Alydar’s final crop when buying him for $475,000 at the 1991 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Benchmark obviously endured some physical problems as a young horse and did not make his debut until the Del Mar meeting as a 3-year-old when he was well-beaten in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race. That was his only start at 3, and he raced only four times at 4, winning a maiden race at Hollywood Park and an allowance race at Del Mar. His 5-year-old campaign was limited to two starts, including a win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Hollywood.

Benchmark was finally sound enough for a fuller campaign at age 6 in 1997, and he proved he was a good horse. After a winning pipe-opener, he stepped up in class to win the Grade 2 San Bernardino Handicap, beating Kingdom Found by 1 1/2 lengths. Benchmark raced only in graded stakes for the rest of his career, winning the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup Handicap and the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap in back-to-back starts to close out 1997.

By the time Benchmark was ready to retire to stud in 1999, Alydar was already considered a failure as a sire of sires, and there was no reason to attempt to stand him in Kentucky. He instead took up residence at the Wygods’ River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif. Benchmark sired Grade 2 winner A to the Z (out of Green Again, by Replant) and Grade 3 winner Standard Setter (When and Where, by Siyah Kalem) and three other stakes winners in his first crop and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Silent Sighs (Quiet Romance, by Bertrando) in his second, but first made national headlines when Brother Derek appeared in his fourth crop.

Out of Miss Soft Sell, by Siyah Kalem, Brother Derek won 3 of 5 starts at 2, with victories in the Grade 2 Norfolk and Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity sandwiching a well-beaten fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Stevie Wonderboy, Henny Hughes, and First Samurai. Brother Derek won his first three starts at 3, sweeping the Grade 2 San Rafael, Grade 2 Santa Catalina, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby to emerge as the principal California challenger for the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Drawn 18th of the 20 starters in the Derby, he was wide throughout but soldiered on gamely to finish a good fourth, considering his post position, beaten 9 1/2 lengths by the runaway winner, Barbaro.

Brother Derek had won 6 of 8 starts before the Derby, but he never won another race in his eight remaining starts. He ran the occasional good race, such as when second in the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup to Lava Man toward the end of his 3-year-old year and third in both the Grade 2 San Fernando and Grade 2 Strub early at 4, but he never looked like the same horse as early in his sophomore campaign.
Retired to Brereton and Libby Jones’s Airdrie Stud in 2009, Brother Derek sired the talented sprinter Zee Bros (Nyanza, by Montbrook), winner of the valuable Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, in his first crop, but Sam’s Sister is his first graded winner from only 72 foals in his first two crops.

Sam’s Sister was bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones and purchased for $125,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, along with his frequent partners George Todaro and Mark Dedomonico. She won her first three starts in 2014, before finishing a well-beaten last in a Del Mar optional claimer in her only other start before her victory in the Grade 1 La Brea. Sam’s Sister is the third foal out of Kittery Point, by Airdrie sire Include, from a family developed primarily in the United States by Millard Waldheim’s Bwamazon Farm. Bwamazon imported Sam’s Sister’s fourth dam, Nato, by Court Martial, a stakes-winning mare from one of the best families in the General Stud Book, in the 1950s.

Nato produced the fast 2-year-old stakes winner Royal Bund, by Royal Coinage, for Bwamazon, but several of her daughters were even better producers. Royal Bund is the dam of Grade 1 Frizette winner Bundler, by Raise a Native, and Grade 3 Astarita winner Picture Tube, by T. V. Commercial, and Royal Bund’s branch of the family includes Group 1 winner Flemensfirth, by Alleged.

Nato’s daughter Quillon, by Princequillo, is the dam of Quack, by T. V. Lark, one of the best horses bred by Bwamazon. Winner of the top-level Hollywood Gold Cup and Californian Stakes, Quack was also a high-class sire. Another daughter, Articana, by Arctic Prince, is the dam of another pretty good Bwamazon sire, It’s Freezing, by T. V. Commercial, winner of the Grade 3 Queens County.

Sam’s Sister’s third dam, Join the Waves, by Sailor, produced only one minor stakes winner, but her daughter Porthole, by Gallant Man, is the dam of multiple stakes winner Personable Lady, by No Robbery, who is the dam in turn of Grade 1 winner Likeable Style, by Nijinsky II. Likeable Style is the grandam of multiple Grade 1 winner and current prominent sire Scat Daddy, by Johannesburg.

Brereton Jones bred Sam’s Sister’s second dam, the unraced Lucy Sims, by Airdrie stallion Northjet, and she produced multiple stakes winner Tiffany Diamond, by Tiffany Ice. Her daughter Another Vegetarian, by Stalwart, is the dam of Grade 1 winner Sweet Talker, by Stormin Fever, and multiple Grade 3 winner Silver Medallion, by Badge of Silver. Another daughter, Don’t Trick Her, by Mazel Trick, is the dam of Jones-bred Grade 1 winners Include Me Out, by Include, and Check the Label, by Stormin Fever.

Jones sold Kittery Point, by Airdrie stallion Include, for $82,000 as a weanling at the 2004 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, and she was resold for $125,000 to Fox Hill Farm at the following year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of selected yearlings. Trained by Stephen R. Mick, Kittery Point won 2 of 11 starts, all as a 3-year-old in 2007, and ran third in the listed Delaware Certified Distaff Stakes in her final start.

Kittery Point’s first two foals were winners, and she has since produced the newly turned 3-year-old filly Heart of Midway, by Stevie Wonderboy, who ran second in her first start. Her 2013 colt by Proud Citizen failed to meet his reserve at a hammer price of $35,000 at Keeneland last fall, and she has a 2014 filly by Divine Park and was covered by Istan in 2014.

Benchmark continued his good work after siring Brother Derek. Before his retirement in April due to infertility, he sired 742 foals of racing age, 41 stakes winners, including 2013 champion sprinter Points Offthebench (Mo Chuisle, by Free House) and Grade 1 winner Idiot Proof (Perfectly Pretty, by Bertrando).

Idiot Proof now stands in California, but has received little patronage, while Brother Derek’s lack of immediate success in Kentucky resulted in his transfer to West Virginia. That will almost certainly mean the end of the line for the Alydar branch of the Raise a Native male line, a stirp that failed to blossom despite Alydar’s excellence as a sire.